A DECEMBER surge propelled health-care sign-ups through the government's rehabilitated website past the 1 million mark, the Obama administration said yesterday, reflecting new vigor for the problem-plagued federal insurance market.

Combined with numbers for state-run markets due in January, that should put total enrollment in the new private insurance plans under President Obama's health law at about 2 million people through the end of the year, independent experts said.

That would be about two-thirds of the administration's original goal of signing up 3.3 million by Dec. 31, a significant improvement given the technical problems that crippled the federal market during much of the fall. The overall goal remains to enroll 7 million people by March 31.

Rain, wind cause airport delays

Heavy rains and gusting winds caused delays at airports in the New York City and in Philadelphia areas over the weekend.

The Federal Aviation Administration said Newark International Airport experienced delays of 1 hour, 40 minutes. Winds at Kennedy International Airport delayed flights by 1 hour, 47 minutes. Flights at Philadelphia International Airport were experiencing delays of 1 hour, 55 minutes.

The National Weather Service said about 1 to 1 1/2 inches of rain fell in New York Saturday. It said that at 4 p.m., winds reached 33 mph at JFK.

Retirement crisis looming?

WASHINGTON

- A global retirement crisis is bearing down on workers of all ages.

Many people will be forced to work well past the traditional retirement age of 65 - to 70 or even longer. Living standards will fall, and poverty rates will rise for the elderly in wealthy countries that built safety nets for seniors after World War II. In developing countries, rising expectations will be frustrated if governments can't afford retirement systems to replace the tradition of children caring for aging parents. The problems are emerging as the generation born after World War II moves into retirement.

"The first wave of underprepared workers is going to try to go into retirement and will find they can't afford to do so," said Norman Dreger, a retirement specialist in Frankfurt, Germany, who works for Mercer, a global consulting firm.

Al Qaeda run like a corporation

TIMBUKTU, Mali

- The convoy of cars bearing the black al Qaeda flag came at high speed, and the manager of the modest grocery store thought he was about to get robbed.

Mohamed Djitteye rushed to lock his till and cowered behind the counter. He was dumbfounded when instead, the al Qaeda commander gently opened the grocery's glass door and asked for a pot of mustard. Then he asked for a receipt. In fact, al Qaeda is meticulous with documenting the most minute expenses.

In more than 100 receipts left in a building occupied by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in Timbuktu earlier this year, the extremists assiduously tracked their cash flow, recording purchases as small as a single lightbulb. The often tiny amounts are carefully written out in pencil and colored pen on scraps of paper and sticky notes: The equivalent of $1.80 for a bar of soap; $8 for a packet of macaroni; $14 for a tube of super glue.

Teen could be taken off life-support

OAKLAND, Calif.

- The family of a California girl declared brain-dead after complications from tonsil surgery was running out of time yesterday to find a new facility to take her in and keep her on a ventilator.

A judge's ruling will allow Children's Hospital Oakland to remove 13-year-old Jahi McMath from life support at 5 p.m. today unless her family appeals. Jahi underwent a tonsillectomy at the hospital on Dec. 9 to treat sleep apnea. After she awoke from the operation, her family said, she started bleeding heavily from her mouth and went into cardiac arrest.

The family is now pinning its hopes on a New York facility after two California care homes withdrew offers to accept the teen. The hospital said it had not heard from the New York, or any other, facility about a transfer.

Saudis to give Lebanon $3B

BEIRUT

- Saudi Arabia has pledged $3 billion to Lebanon to help strengthen the country's armed forces and purchase weapons from France, Lebanon's president said yesterday, calling it the biggest grant ever for the nation's military.

Michel Sleiman, who made the surprise announcement in a televised national address, did not provide any further details. The Lebanese army has struggled to contain a rising tide of violence linked to the civil war in neighboring Syria, a conflict that has inflamed sectarian tensions in Lebanon and threatened the country's stability.

- Daily News wire reports